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"True artists couldn't give a damn if no one hears their music..."

I just dug the following quote out of my last post

“True artists couldn’t give a damn if no one hears their music. The shit (money) just got in the way and marginalized the scholarly pursuit of creating art for art’s sake…”

Do you agree, or are you on the other end of the spectrum?

I say - whatever rows your boat..  Create for an audience of one, or create for an audience of millions.  Make it for money, or make it for art’s sake….

Reader Comments (24)

it's hard to agree to notion like "true artist". what the hell is that? a generalization. a religion of true artism? i totally agree with "the shit(money) just got in the way". that one is true. again, i don't think 'scholarly pursuit of creating art for art's sake..." is something we could all agree on. you should work on the contexts of your claims - how you contextualize them, and how far can they reach if they are universalized in anyway. who do they (claims) embrace, address, etc.

i hope that makes sense.

July 23 | Unregistered Commenterdeviator

The stament is true for a given value of true. I think that the key to making lasting art (whatever that may mean) lies in doing something simply for the sake of doing it. You cannot plan on having success, whatever your starting position - there is no guarantee that anyone except yourself will like your music, so you may as well aim to please yourself first.

Having said that, there is no reason you should go out of your way not to have success. The thing is that the things you have to do in order to make your art successful have little to do with what you do to make your art good. It's a whole different ballgame, but fortunately the two aren't mutally exclusive. You just have to appreciate that the former requires a whole different set of mostly unrelated skills.

Long time no see, Bruce. I've noticed Music Xray took off. Things are good, I hope?

only true artists can make money. bad that true artists also can make no money.
we have more media but less content presented in that media. web 2.0 can't equalize that disadvantage.
so more and more true artists have to face the bloody reality not to make a living out of their art.

greetings wolfgang

July 23 | Unregistered Commenterwolfgang

This is a particular bugbear of mine. I'm squarely on the opposite side of the fence. This Romantic notion of creating art for art's sake is just that - a notion. As Samuel Johnson said about his particular art, "No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money." I wouldn't go this far when it comes to music, but lets not pretend that pursuit of money wasn't driving most of the artists in your record collection. Jagger went to the London School of Economics remember! :)

I think it's the great tragedy of the effect of things like Anderson's "Free" and the prevalent attitudes on music tech blogs, convincing musicians that they should consider their music a hobby and true musicians make art regardless of the possibility of being paid for it. Commerce drives (great) art - painting, sculpture, music, writing, film, everything. 20th century art was born in a capitalist foundry. We are capitalist artists whether we like it or not. A bit rich for the web 'utopians' to suggest we forget about the money, when that's all we know. Wake me up when we're all Communists, then I'll start making music just for the sake of it.

(Disclaimer: I make music because I love it, and will continue to do so. I give my tracks away for free. But I'm striving for reward - not always necessarily financial, but certainly dreaming of being in a position to make music full time, which demands I make a fair bit of cash somewhere down the line. I'm happy with this being the driving force behind my music, because it gives me focus).

a favorite quote of mine is
"Just because no one understands you doesn't mean you're an artist" --CJ

the quote in this article is just sour-grapes rationalization for why so many "artists" don't make money. Rather than understand the business and please the buying public, it is so much easier to wrap oneself in the mantle of "artiste" and disdain it all as "too common, too base, too vulgar for my delicate sensibilities".

some artists deserve to starve, because they suck. Others don't deserve it, but do so anyway out of a misguided sense of self-importance and self-imposed ignorance.

this is the same attitude that says "sweeping the floor is beneath my dignity, so instead I'll just live in a filthy hovel"

grow up. music is a business. if you just want to wank in your basement, that's cool, but don't whine about not making any money

July 23 | Unregistered Commenterlaughing

That's the most hilarious quote I've ever heard! One of the most fundamental contributing factors to any art is it's audience. Theatre to an empty house? Live music without an audience? Visual art without a viewer?

It's the interaction between audience & creation that makes art what it is - the audience, and their reaction to art, is as necessary as the art itself.

I find Chrisitan's assertion that "Free" or other attitudes toward music online are "convincing musicians that they should consider their music a hobby and true musicians make art regardless of the possibility of being paid for it. " to be wholly false. I find the book, and general attitudes toward music online, are quite the opposite - pointing out the inevitability of free "recorded" music online and asking how can musicians (Capitalists all!) make money around that. There's more economics that utopianism in most of these arguments (see Mike Masnick, Terry McBride and Ian Rogers and their associated companies for great examples)

July 23 | Unregistered CommenterNick

Ha ha ha - what a firestorm debate topic... nice one.

If the statement is true, well, then Beethoven and Mozart weren't 'true' artists.

The 'art' of the music will be judged on it's own, regardless of how much money it made.

The monetary 'value' of any art, or any enterprise for that matter, is entirely made up. It's how well you can market that made up value that is the difference between getting paid or not. The disparities between 'great' artists who make money/remain poor, and or those who 'suck' and get rich/remain poor, etc, all has to do with 'how good are you at business?'. Look at Hugh McLeod - he managed, over time, to turn his concept of 'cartoons drawn on the back of business cards' into a full time business... his is a great example of how to build 'value'.

Business is tough. A lot of artists suck at business. Most businesses 'fail' within the first five years. So do most bands. The difference is, if your hot dog business fails, you don't want to continue making hot dogs on the street for fun. With music, you do want to. Because we love it so much, we allow ourselves to be undervalued.

I know a lot of people who are mediocre 'artists' but great at business. They flourish. Every once in a while you get a 'great' artist who is also savvy. It's rare. And that's just the numbers.

People look at the biz today and think it's very different from the biz yesterday/year. But it's not really - a very small proportion of the giant pack is savvy/privileged/lucky enough to rise to the top of the earning/fame heap. A slightly larger, but still significantly small proportion is able to eke out a reasonably comfortable existence. The vast majority don't move up (in terms of earnings).

Really, the art and the business are mutually exclusive. It doesn't matter. If you build value for your 'art' (read - effective marketing) it barely matters if it's good or not. Good/Bad is subjective, and it changes all the time.

July 23 | Unregistered CommenterAdrian Ellis

Thats silly. the reason i write music is to connect to other people. trying to communicate.
I care less about money and more if people had a reaction to something i made.
i give away more music than i'll ever sell. I'd love to make money from music if only so i can spend more time making music rather than day-jobbing it.
but day-jobbing wont keep me from wanting to make music.
the whole concept of defining "true art" is so silly.

July 23 | Unregistered Commenterplaguechild

You've captured an interesting question, that I attempted to capture in my post a while back.

I think the problem with art for art's sake is that artists have to live. We have to eat, drink, sleep, etc. and unless we find some great source of income, or are independently wealthy, creating art for art's sake is an impossibility.

July 23 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

It would be most illuminating to find the source of that quote and ask them who their top 10 "true artists" are.

I suspect it would be a litany of mental illness and vast personal wealth.

July 23 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

There's a difference between being an entertainer and being an artist.

Both are equally valid pursuits.

July 23 | Unregistered CommenterJinsai

Interesting debate.

For me, I disagree with the notion that "True artists couldn't give a damn if no one hears their music...", if only because "true" is subjective. Who gets to decide what's true in art? To give anyone this authority is a road to ruin.

Further, art is just ideas, nothing more. Commerce is the buying and selling of stuff, and all stuff started as an idea. For example, why is the intellectual property of a Intel chip considered different from the intellectual property of Hey Jude? Intel chose to capture their idea in silicon, whereas the Beatles went with magnetic tape, right?

Somehow artists have tried to monopolize the notion of sacrificing all for an idea. Bullshit. Anyone who pursues an idea will face risk, ridicule, failure and maybe, just maybe the burden of immense wealth.


July 23 | Unregistered CommenterJeff Shattuck

Ever hear of Charles Ives?

July 23 | Unregistered CommenterPat

Artists of any sort require income to survive and continue producing art. But anyone creating new ideas will invariably challenge the status quo. Some artists find acceptance from the public and become successful, which sometimes results in a weakening of their arts "edge". Some maintain that edge and also manage to continue being successful. Some artists are never accepted, and struggle to survive.

It's those of whom we speak in the quote which is the topic of discussion here, those who nearly starve, yet who continue to be obsessed with their own creations to the point they seem to live off the ether of those creations.

Those I would deem "spiritual" or true artists, whose spirit and faith in the validity of their creations gives them the will to continue. Are they all brilliant? No. Some starving artists are just stupid, or deluded. But some artists, composers, writers, painters, whose works may not be recognized until after their death, create despite or regardless of "popular" opinion or support. They may not reject support out of pride, but a lonely pursuit of something they cannot NOT do. It's not a choice. They must express what they see or hear.

These ideas do not apply as much to today's music and art world, which is more consumerist and capitalist than ever, but more to the long history of composers, writers, painters, and performers who have lived for their art.

Two cents from one musician performer at 3 AM.

July 24 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Thomas

Personally, I find there to be just as much, if not more of an art in getting your music out there as there was in creating the thing in the first place. I'd think a "true" artist would have an eye toward the sustainability of his craft, thus he would give a damn if no one saw or heard it.

Anyone who ever said they were "Creating art for art's sake" was just trying to impress the girls.

July 24 | Registered CommenterJohnny Grubb

"True artists couldn't give a damn if no one hears their music. The shit (money) just got in the way and marginalized the scholarly pursuit of creating art for art's sake..." - bullshit, in my humble opinion. Money and chicks (a.k.a. bling and babes) are, and always have been the greatest source of inspiration for any real artist. And why write music if no one's gonna hear it? I just don't get it...

July 25 | Unregistered CommenterSleazebag

the more i think on it, this whole topic: FAIL. Its based on the idea that we can define the concepts of "artist" and "entertainers". We should stop navel gazing and get back to making music period. LOL.

July 27 | Unregistered CommenterPlaguechild

artists in all mediums, whether music, painting, writing, etc all share one thing with everyone on the planet -- they are human, and as humans, they are social creatures. An artist can resist or attempt to ignore the urge for social approval, but it is hard and few can do it 100%. I think extremes on the "sellout / social butterfly" side can be successful commercial artists but very rarely are great "fine" artists. I don't think the opposite is true -- extreme social resistence does not correlate to extremely heightened quality, even if our society does like to prop up the fantasy of the mad genius.

July 28 | Unregistered CommenterGiff

"Money and chicks (a.k.a. bling and babes) are, and always have been the greatest source of inspiration for any real artist"
Wow! So that would mean there were no female artists out there, or maybe they'd have to be lesbians to be real artists!! Methinks you've been listening to too much gangsta rap, my friend. Maybe it's time to chill out a bit and listen to some REAL artists in the fields of classical, jazz, folk or world music or in fact any musical form where people are truly motivated by the love of making music alone.

July 29 | Unregistered CommenterDeb

That quote is both true and untrue.
An artist will create regardless. If money/audience wasn't an issue, I would still be songwriter.

that being said, I've known many songwriters who hide behind quotes like this to avoid spending the time and effort to develop the craft of writing songs that resonate with large amounts of people (i.e. pop music). As many other posters have said, if you want to write alone in your basement, fine. just don't whine about how misunderstood you are. If you're misunderstood, it's because your songs aren't communicating what you intend....if you have a failure to communicate...perhaps your not such a good writer.

August 1 | Unregistered Commenterasmoritz

Interesting opinions. Art and business are not the same, but artists also need to make money.

August 2 | Unregistered CommenterVic

How do you know what the market wants, anyway? To be able to make money from music, art, whatever you have to work out what is wanted., and then where and to whom to sell it. That is why most artists/musicians/painters don't make money from their work.

September 6 | Unregistered CommenterA Query

^^By building an audience and testing content. Go with what works, learn to anticipate what will work in advance. That's about all it's just a matter of sticking with an iterative process and documenting your metrics/data/feedback.

September 7 | Unregistered CommenterJustin Boland

a little off topic but i just want to clear some thing up about what art is because, one poster says that "INTEL choose to capture their idea on a chip" claiming a microprocessor is art. A microprocessor is not art, nor is the music of the Beatles. Art CAN ONLY BE CREATED BY AN ARTIST. An artist is one person, an artist is not a band , corporation, record label, or anything more than one person. Anything that is created by a pair or group of people is in no way art but only a product. Art is only the creation of an Artist and that is it.

February 17 | Unregistered CommenterBryan Lightningrod

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